Foodservice Equipment Reports

Comments On “Where Do We Find The Next Generation?”

A number of you kindly wrote to comment on my September 7 FER Dealer Report opinion piece, “Where do we find the next generation?” Everyone noted the importance of bringing young people into this business that can be so rewarding and useful and which seemingly very few ever consider as a career. And everyone who commented noted how difficult it can be to find these younger folks and entice them into the business.

One particularly impassioned e-mail came from Marc Tell, CEO of The Sam Tell Cos.

After saying that for many dealers, unfortunately, recruitment means poaching employees from each other, and wondering how older, experienced folks (like he and I) could “EVER begin to understand what makes a company great,” he went on to point out that one can find talented, young people if one tries hard enough. 

“Robin, I invite you to visit my New York City office,” he wrote. “With an average employee age under 30, we are poised and ready for growth. And these aren’t e-commerce folks looking to jump to the next hot start-up. Our director of project management has been with us for four years and is 27. Our director of CAD services has been with us for six years and is 29. Several of our project managers are under 35, and our entire estimating department are Generation X-ers.”

“Oh, we don’t have to have pool tables or couches or offer them free trips to the Himalayas. But we DO have to pay well, spell out the career path as part of our interview and on-boarding processes, and show new associates examples of how this will work for them,” he concluded.

Mark Pumphret from Hatco also wrote me. Mark—who given my advanced age, I consider one of the younger folks in the business—is one of the judges on our Management Excellence Award dealer panel. He sent along a story from the Boston Globe to point out that it’s not just those of us on the equipment and supplies side of the business who have problems recruiting and retaining young talent. The article told the tale of woe of an experienced restaurateur trying to open a new gastropub in Boston. In the first eight months of the concept’s operation, he has been through four executive chefs and 18, yes 18, head bartenders. Speaking of poaching employees, wow!

Needless to say, the product is inconsistent and the service is awful. And this is owned and run by someone who knows what they are doing! But our industry has grown so big and added so many employees the past few years, we’ve begun to scrape the bottom of the barrel of available talent.

As I said two weeks ago, there are no easy answers to where we find the young folks we need to sustain our businesses. What I do know is that our two dealer Management Excellence Award winners for 2017, Clark Foodservice and Birmingham Restaurant Supply, are finding and retaining young people, which is one of the many reasons our panel of judges selected them.


Robin Ashton


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